Thursday, July 29, 2010

More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

I had an amazing father.  He worked hard, was a man of morality, a man of faith (well hidden) and a man who believed in himself.  He managed to provide a very fine life for four kids and my mom with the toil of his hands in dirt.  Dad was a farmer and didn't make a big deal out of much of anything except getting the job done when it needed to be done and fishing.

And, on the farm timing was everything.  The hay needed to be mowed, raked and baled with the moisture predictions, the cattle needed to be bred and fed with the calendar and the planting and harvesting needed to be done according to the signs of weather and sun.

But sometimes, he would run into problems.  Sometimes the tractor wouldn't start, or the rain wouldn't stop, or the rain wouldn't start or the hail came.   Sometimes the bull would die or the mother pig would roll over and kill her babies or the cows got too much fresh green grass and got very sick.  Sometimes the calves would be born in a blizzard and freeze.  Sometimes it just didn't work. 

It was then that my dad was at his best.  He would say, "There's more than one way to skin a cat."   Lover of cats that I was I just didn't quite get it.   Now I do. 

That's when imagination and creativity come in to play. 

Who would ever want to skin a cat?  Obviously this was dad's way of saying, "this may be hard, but we can get through this one too."  Skinning a cat.  Hard work.  Work you have to do because you just have to, because it's there and you have to do it.  You didn't plan it, you didn't ask for it, and you sure don't want it, but it's yours and you have to do it. 

So the cat becomes the unsurmountable problem and getting it's skin off in a new and creative way is the flow of imagination that gets a job done, even when it's hard and even when it seems impossible. 

Jed and I have been skinning cats for 15 months.   One after another, calico, alley, tabby, you name it, we've skinned it. 

When he couldn't get the wheelchair in the shower an we couldn't afford to remodel, we built an outdoor shower.  When we thought we would lose everything financially, we  teamed up with our kids and bought a house.  When I couldn't leave his side, I had the groceries delivered.  When the upstairs to our house became unaccessable to us, we cleaned it out for our care giver to move in. There is more than one way to skin a cat. 

Now we find ourselves somewhat anticipatory about a trip we are taking.  Who said a quadriplegic has to stay in one place and can't travel cross country in a U-Haul truck?  This cat will skin scratching and clawing.

I have my dad to thank for my grit.  Spending your life working in the dirt and relying on the sun and the rain and the grace of God tends to make a hearty and humble man.  He would be 98 this Saturday had he not passed away last Christmas time.  Skinning cats seemed to have served him well. 

It's serving Jed and I well, too.  Each day brings a new cat to skin and each day we learn something new about our cat skinning skills.   

Monday, July 26, 2010

self standing

You've heard it all before. "Stand on your own two feet." "Carry your own weight." "Just put one foot in front of the other." "Walk a while in another's shoes."  There's more.  They all assume that walking is a given.  That it is a decision.  That you can just decide to do it and you can. 

I don't know how the body works.  I know a lot more than I did 15 months ago, but the mystic of the operations of our bodies is nothing short of a miracle.  Science, yes, but a miracle none the less.  Every little connction has to be in line.  Our bodies are perfect and the greatest gift from God. 

But when things are not working perfect, one little spot in the spinal cord.  Really, I saw it on the ExRay.  One little spot.   One litle spot is not firing perfectly and it messes up everything.

Jed has made improvement.  Through determination and attitude and amazing professional care, he has made good progress.  But he still cannot do for himself. 

His great focus of late is to stand unassisted.  Self standing is just a given after age 2 or so.  It's like breathing, we just do it without thought.  Self standing for Jed is a major struggle, an occational success and often a crushing dissapointment. 

Tonight I told him that he was amazing, that no one could do this better than him.  My God, he's 70 years old and he has not given up, he stays positive, even though he is in constant pain and suffers from boredom. 

He is standing on his own two feet.  He is carrying his weight and he's putting one foot in front of the other.  It is just such a struggle. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010


We have rats.  This house has to be rat heaven.  Really, Rat Heaven.  The secret of this house is the space between the floors.  This house was built in the late 1800's and had very high ceilings as was the practice at that time.  Lots of people have made this house their home since then and some of them have remodled. 

We now have lower ceilings with a nice rat run between the floors.  I'm declaring war.  For 20 years we have put out poisen and said things like, "Oh, my God, the rats are back."  But we've never declared war.  I don't know how they are getting in, but it stops.  Here and now.  I hired a company to clean out the attic.  Can you imagine having that job?  They cleaned and  they cleaned and they vacuumed and the vacuumed.  Large hoses ran out of our house and I could hear the remanants of rat living move though the vessel occupying my entire house.  Awful as it was to face up to rat infestation, I feel clean.  I have won.  Rats be gone, if only for a while.  I have an exterminator coming to get the holdouts. 

Jed is doing good.  Progress is continuous, but it doesn't always build on itself.  He'll walk up a storm and move mountains one day and for the next several be prone and sleeping with little obvious function. 

His progress is like the rat war.  We fight hard.  We think we win.  We hire professionals and take their advise.  But sometimes it just can't be controlled.  Other times we get determined.  And, like the Karate Kid, nothing can defeat you. 

Nothing will defeat Jed.  He is a story to be told.  People talk about stuff that's hard, but this, this is hard.  He has no arms or legs that want to work for him.  But, he is declaring war on them.  He will win.  We will have no rats in the house and he will walk. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Terrible Life

Do you know a single person who hasn't had a terrible life?  Everyone I know has.  Terrible.  They've lost a child or suffered cancer, or lost a spouse or been financially devastated or had their dreams crushed, or were divorced or had their kids destroyed with drugs, or never were able to bear children, or were raped or abused by their  parents, or suffer terrible pain, or are consumed with lonliness,....or had a terrible accident.  It's just terrible!  It appears to be the nature of life. How then do we go on? 

Alcohol tends to help.  A good glass of brandy can make most things seems less dark.  Pills help.  For a short time.  Very ineffective and not recommended, but they're a source of Terrible irradication.  My personal favorite is potato chips and appricot brandy.  Something about the sweet and salty takes me away to a better place if but only a short and unproductive while. 

I have lived a rather charmed life.  One where terrible didn't penetrate.  Terrible was all around but didn't poke my skin.  Terrible moved in one day and tried to make a home.  Terrible has a way of taking charge. 

What I've learned  is that family and friends are the gift God gives us to put a barrier up against Terrible.  What we've been given through the people we know has been nothing short of a miracle and Terrible has moved out.  Terrible comes sometimes in the night, lonely and afraid, but Terrible does not live here. 

I have friends who have had their children murdered, watched their spouses die in their arms, and have friends find comfort in suicide.  These are terrible.  How my friends survive is beyond me.  God gives strength.  Strength that brandy or potato chips or pills cannot provide.  God is how people survive Terrible. 

Everyone I know has had a terrible life.  Being a quadriplegic family is terrible.  But, comfort comes in friends, in the random visitors, in family and in self.  God has put a small seed of love and knowing in our hearts and this too shall pass.   How we all get through the tough stuff of life is quite a miracle.  I choose to call our miracle God. 

Friday, July 2, 2010


We went away this week.  We celebrated.  We celebrated the joy of knowing a remarkable person, Ubaldo, who has worked for us for one year.  The first day he worked for us was his birthday, so we celebrated one year later both the anniversary and the birthday. 

We spent two nights at Pachanga, a casino/hotel.  Three rooms, us, Ubaldo, Sarah and family.  Great fun.  Relaxation and awayness.  Awayness is good as it takes you away from the normal which can get very tedious. 

But, the remarkable thing about the time away for me was communication.  Being out of the normal routine is quite okay for the average person, but for the quadriplegic and care giver/wife, it can create anxiety.  We didn't have our normal set up.  Bathroom, schedule, meals.  These and more all need to be addressed. 

We accomplished all with amazing ease.  But, what I noticed was our need for communication.  "Put your foot here, move your arm there, lift now, adjust the pillow please."  We spoke to one another with gentleness and unspoken awareness that, "this is different, help me help you." 

We are so very blessed.  Not only do we have an amazing caregiver who we cherish and are proud to call our friend, we, Jed and I, can communicate.  We can speak to one another about needs and wants.  We can talk of tough stuff. 

This is not for the weak.  This is hard.  Each day, each experiance, must be carefully planned and executed.  But, we are blessed by one another's willingness to communicate with the other.

How do you evaluate a successful life?  A successful marriage?  I think it is though communication.